Marianne Binetti

February is the time to buy ‘bare root’ plants for the Pacific Northwest garden, yard

Early spring is when bare root trees and shrubs become available for sale at local nurseries and garden centers, so let the planting season begin.

The term “bare root” means a plant sold without soil as the roots are bare. This means the plant is dormant and leafless, so it can take the abuse of being uprooted, encased in plastic with some sawdust or shredded newspaper around the roots and sold at bargain prices for early spring planting.

There are several advantages of bare root plants. First, they are less expensive as they do not incur the cost of pot and soil. Second, they are easier to transport home, being lightweight and taking up less room. Third, many trees and shrubs transplant better and grow faster when transplanted while dormant.

This is the time to make some groundbreaking decisions and bring home some plants with naked roots. Here are a few of the best for Western Washington:


Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and more can be found for sale bare root, and all of these berries thrive in our cool summer climate. When it comes to planting strawberries, the growing tip is to build a bit of a mound and set the crown of the plant on top of the mound with the bare roots spread out to the sides. Cover the roots but don’t bury the crown of the strawberry plant under the soil. Look for ever-bearing strawberries such as Hood, Quinault and Tri Star


The old-fashioned hybrid tea roses can often be found as bare root plants with the ever favorite Peace rose still a good producer of beautiful blooms in Western Washington. The classic pink climbing rose, “Cecile Brunner,” and the colorful red and cream, “Double Delight,” also are less expensive roses you might find for sale now while dormant.


Here you will find some real bargains. Bare root shrubs of lilac, quince, spiraea and other hardy growers can be found for bargain prices in the bare root bins, but they won’t look like much. A few naked sticks emerging from a plastic bag with no signs of life do not make for an enticing purchase. Don’t walk on by. Bare root shrubs will adapt quickly and do well in our climate so that you can plant a dozen shrubs now and have a screening hedge of bushy plants in just a few years. Keep in mind that bare root plants are deciduous. That means they lose their foliage in the winter. This winter dormancy is what makes them so adaptable to early spring planting.


This is your chance to buy apple, pear, plum and cherry trees and fit them easily into your car. The dormant trees can be laid on their sides and are easy to lift and transport. You can fit an entire orchard of fruit tree whips into a compact car and still have room for the groceries.

Spring is coming so dig in now before the bargain bare roots plants start to leaf out.

Reach Marianne Binetti through her website at or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022.
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